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  • Andrea Liss

Ask Andrea - Had Enough of It

Updated: May 9

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Looking for a little advice about your relationship? Perhaps you have questions about parenting in Europe? Ask Andrea! Our social worker, Andrea Liss will pick one question a month and answer it in our mid-month bulletin. You can submit your questions anonymously to her at

Dear Andrea.   

My family is pretty crazy.  My mom and dad divorced many years ago, but my mother insists on hating my father and trying to drag me into things.  Meanwhile, my father has long since remarried a woman who stirs the pot.  My father is passive, and this drives me nuts.  My brother has alcohol problems, and I am his confidante.  I’ve got my own family and no time to deal with this nonsense, but I always seem to get pulled back in.   Do you have any books or videos that you think might help me?   

-- Had Enough of It! 


Dear Had Enough of It! 

Chaotic families are characterized by an over-focus on the past, the inability to accept that each member sees family stories from their own unique perspective, either too much “we need to talk” (which invariably ends in conflict), or, too much emotional avoidance, and an oversimplification of how major life problems should be solved.  Crazy families can’t tolerate a divergent voice or normal separation, for example a common crazy family rule is “If you are not with me, you are against me.”  

So yes, there comes a time in our lives when we need to break from our troubled past so that we can move forward, keep growing, and save ourselves. We can let our family of origin keep us in the past and usually do this out of fear or hurt. Sometimes we feel like we are being held to a hot poker by a demanding parent. It can take all our energy to keep from being burned. When we have reached the edge of our window of tolerance, sometimes we can get hooked and succumb to odd family dynamics. Sometimes we see this as it is happening, sometimes we don’t. And then, the cycle repeats itself.  

Had Enough of It!, it sounds like you are getting ready to withdraw from the present family dynamic and commit to letting go of the past. This is smart because it will free you up for your own family and growth. It can be a great source of pride to make subtle and consistent changes in a relationship. You will need to resist the urge to ‘help’ family members that misbehave without changing for the better. Usually, significant family change only occurs when someone in the family dies, or when at least one person chooses being “effective” over being “right.” Will that be you? Are you willing to be the change? To what extent are you willing to go to save your own family and yourself? No change will occur if no changes occur.   

Here are some excellent resources Had Enough of It! Let me know how it goes as I am sure there will be a Part Two to your Ask Andrea.   


Resources on alcohol: 

  1. Al-Anon Family Groups (for when you are back in Canada) 

  1. In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts:  Close Encounters With Addiction book by Gabor Mate 

Resources on boundaries:   

Sorry for the cliche but I tried to find the best material I could.  The self-help literature on the internet and on bookshelves is over saturated with material on boundaries but here goes:   

  1. How Can I Forgive You:  The Courage To Forget, the Freedom Not To book by Janis Abrahms Spring 

  1. Emotional Chaos To Clarity:  Move From The Chaos Of The Reactive Mind To The Clarity Of The Responsive Mind book by Phillip Moffitt 

Resources on moms and dads that are especially challenging: 

  1. Enmeshment, Detachment, and Interdependence: Healthy Boundaries: Relationship Skills #12 

  1. Understanding The Borderline Mother:  Helping Her Children Transcend The Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship book by Christine Ann Lawson  

If you would like to pose a question for the Ask Andrea column, please send your anonymous question to and Andrea will do her best to share some of her ideas.

Andrea has a master’s degree in Social Work and is a Registered Social Worker (Ontario) with over 20 years of experience. She maintains a faculty appointment at McMaster University where she teaches in the Masters of Science in Psychotherapy program.

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